Super Sodiq needs to lay hands on Touchy Fili

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 17: Sodiq Yusuff of Nigeria celebrates his TKO victory over Gabriel Benitez of Mexico in their featherweight bout during the UFC 241 event at the Honda Center on August 17, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Andre Fili (20-6) and Sodiq Yusuff (10-1) are set to face off at UFC 246 on 18 January. Both fighters like to come forward and inflict damage, so this featherweight match-up promises to be a banger. Distance, counters, footwork and clinch should be the main focus for predictions of Andre Fili versus Sodiq Yusuff at UFC 246.

Fili is the first fighter to have a significant reach and height advantage over Yusuff in the UFC. Yusuff posses a one-punch knockout threat and is likely the faster man. This is truly a fight of the skinny long dude versus the powerhouse.

Predictions for Andre Fili versus Sodiq Yusuff at UFC 246

Yusuff has made a splash since his Dana Whites Tuesday Night Contender Series barn burner against Mike Davis. If he beats Fili, Yusuff will be set to get a match against a top 15 opponent. Fili is no slouch and has had impressive performances against the top guys in the division. He is also credited as former featherweight champion Max Holloway’s toughest fight. A win for either man here could be the start of a journey to the title.

The important factors at play here are whether Fili is able to keep Yusuff at bay. If Fili dances around the smaller man and sticks a jab in his face it may be a long night for the Nigerian. If Yusuff is able to close the distance and cut down the movement of Fili he should be able to put the veteran away. This is a fight where if either man plays to his physical strengths it will give the other guy problems.

For Fili, it is important that he takes advantage of some habits Yusuff has. Yusuff tends to defend body kicks by parrying them across his body. If Fili can land some body kicks he can sap the cardio of the more explosive fighter and open up strikes to the head. In Fili’s win over Sheymon Moraes (11-4) he managed to convince the Brazilian to defend a body kick which opened up a straight left-right combo to Moraes’ head. This willingness to parry also opens up the high kick. If Fili can condition Yusuff to expect open sidekicks as body kicks he can land a high kick. The danger is that Fili could have his leg caught while throwing the kick. This leaves him open to a counter or a takedown. This may be worth the risk as it does open a lot of opportunities for power shots.

Distance will decide the winner

Fili knows his strengths are at range and is sensible enough to stay there. He has power in his shots and could punish Yusuff for a reckless attack. Yusuff is open to check left hooks as he drops his hands when throwing a power right. Fili might not have the best left hook but he could use it against Yusuff coming in.

Yusuff has all the weapons he needs to deal with the habits of Fili. Fili likes to switch stances a great deal but rarely does so when throwing strikes. If Yusuff can time Fili switching with his calf kicks he can slow down him down.This could be important as it is his longest-range weapon. Fili likes to throw his jab a lot and that opens him up to right-hand counters over the top.

Yusuff just needs to land one and probably will

Fili has bad defence, he largely relies on his height and moving backwards to be out of reach. Therefore a good place for Yusuff to catch him is when he hits the cage. When circling off, Fili will be open to shots that will land hard when they connect. This is because Fili holds his head straight up in the air. Doing this allows him to pull back from shots but if that does not work then he is eating them flush. Yusuff has enough power to shut out anyone’s lights if he catches them clean.

The clinch may be an important factor in this match up. Fili needs to strip grips, make space and circle out if Yusuff grabs a hold of him. Yusuff will want to hold on to Fili, knee him in the legs and beat him up with short shots. If Yusuff can wear on Fili’s arms he should be able to remove some of the sting in his shots.

This might be where we see Yusuff’s full game

While this is an MMA contest we’re unlikely to see these men’s ground game in this match up. Fili is a decent takedown artist and Yusuff has not fought anyone with his wrestling skills. It just seems to go against the better idea of keeping distance and avoiding shots. Fili could look to use takedowns as a means of keeping Yusuff at bay and have him worrying about committing to hard shots. No on has taken Yusuff down in the UFC so his ground game off his back is still unknown. Until that happens speculation is pointless but Fili might end up having an easy night if he manages to get Yusuff on his back. While this may be a potentially rewarding it does run counter to keeping distance and picking Yusuff off at range.

How the fight may play out at UFC 246

Footwork may be the make or break of this matchup. Yusuff appears to have decent offensive footwork, being capable of getting his man to the fence and cutting off his movement. Fili’s defensive footwork is not great. While he can move effectively and change things up with switched stances he has a problem with ring awareness and generalship. As mentioned earlier, Fili’s defence is to move backwards. This allows him to be corralled onto the cage a lot easier. Dictating where exchanges take place may be what decides the fight for either man. If Fili’s avenues of movement are reduced it makes it a lot easier for Yusuff to land a powerful shot.

An important factor in picking fights is understanding how much a fighter needs to change his game to win. If a fighter needs to dramatically adjust their style in order to achieve the victory, that generally makes it less likely they will win. While fighters can adjust to competition, it’s a good sign if they don’t have to.

Looking at this fight it’s clear that Sodiq Yusuff can fight his regular game and have a decent chance of winning. Fili will need to switch things up in order to secure victory here, and he has proven in recent fights to have the discipline and knowledge to fight to a game plan. While this is certainly a big test for Yusuff he does have the tools he needs to pass with flying colours at UFC 246.

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